Me to BBC: you guys rock!

The BBC has put online a catalogue of recordings held of its radio and television broadcasts since about 1930! Not the recordings themselves, mind you, but details such as broadcast dates, participants, and programme summaries, in many cases. Nor is it a complete record of what was broadcast: if it wasn't recorded (as many early programmes were not), then it's not in there.Although, oddly enough, some future programmes seem to be listed. But still, this is a most excellent resource for researchers. They've done it in a quite sophisticated way, too, all very Web 2.0 with RSS, RDF and tag clouds, and they have also done the right thing by allowing re-use of the data for non-commercial purposes (there must be some interesting possibilities for scraping). My only regret is that there is so little from my period; the archive evidently doesn't start thickening out until the 1950s.

Some notes on getting around: searching could be easier, from an historian's point of view. You can search by description, or contributor, which are useful, but there is no way to search a range of dates, nor is it set up for browsing dates. If you have a specific day in mind, then you can go straight to it by using a URI of the form For example to see what the archive has for 30 January 1965, the URI is To see what the catalogue has for a particular year, the best way would seem to be to go to the advanced search page and enter the desired year in the description field; the vast majority of results will actually be from later programmes, but the older ones will be at the bottom of the page. I'm sure searching will improve in future, after all it is a prototype, in the BBC's very non-Web 2.0 language.

Here's a few random things I've found:

More here and here. Via Boing Boing.

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5 thoughts on “Me to BBC: you guys rock!

  1. Chris Williams

    What a beauty. The BBC's database is a fine thing - I've been lucky enough to have access to it in the past. I seem to remember that the internal version does allow date-based searches, so with luck when they update the front end we'll get hold of that too.

    Bless you, Auntie. It's nearly enough to make me buy a TV and start paying for it.

  2. Interesting to put in different ways of describing 1914-18 as a measure of when it shifted between being The Great War, The First World War and World War One. Can't wait for the updated version either.

  3. But this should get you into at least some online BBC recording themselves, Brett, although I don't know if they'll go back anything far enough for your period:

    I've yet to try it myself, but it sounds like a great project, albeit in development. I'm due to visit Glasgow Caledonian later this year, so I intend to check them out more fully in person.

  4. Brett Holman

    Post author

    Omnibus reply.

    Chris: I certainly feel that I'm getting my money's worth from the BBC! Considerably more than, in fact ...

    Dan: I hadn't even thought of it for tracking the changing memory of war, but of course it could be even more interesting to scrape it for that.

    Jack: thanks, I didn't know about that site. There's not much from my period, about 30 recordings, but three of those are directly related to aviation and a number of the others indirectly so (mainly about Pearl Harbor). So it'll be worth checking back from time to time to see what's new.

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